Choppin’ Brocolli

Many of you have written or tweeted (follow me @daveraymond4 on twitter – I’m happy to respond) expressing some confusion and/or concern about the Houston Astros‘ evolving roster.  So I thought I’d try to put it all down in one place and then open the floor for questions.

Since taking over as the Astros General Manager, Jeff Luhnow has traded away eight players.  Depending on your level of agreement with the club’s desire to rebuild, you may have a wide range of feelings about that.  Make no mistake, though, this was the stated plan a long time ago.  So here are the former Astros, where they are, and what they’ve done: 

  • Mark Melancon – 0-2, 5.95 ERA w/ Boston Red Sox
  • Humberto Quintero – .232-1-19 before being released by the KC Royals
  • Jason Bourgeois – 33 at bats w/ KC Royals, 160 at bats w/ Omaha Royals
  • Carlos Lee – .231-1-8 in 12 gms. w/ Miami Marlins
  • Brandon Lyon – tossed scoreless inning last night for Toronto
  • J.A. Happ – retired two hitters for Toronto last night
  • David Carpenter – assigned to AAA Las Vegas
  • Brett Myers – traded to Chicago White Sox yesterday

In return, the Astros have received 16 players from the Red Sox, Royals, Marlins, Blue Jays and White Sox.  Here’s a glance at what these trades have brought back to the organization:

  • Jed Lowrie – Astros starting SS w/ 14 HRs before going to DL in mid-July
  • Kyle Weiland – Astros starting RHP, made 3 starts before going to DL in April
  • Kevin Chapman – LH reliever @ AA Corpus Christi, 6-3, 1 sv, 2.16 ERA and 45 SO in 41.2 IP
  • D’Andre Toney – .257-2-11 w/ .350 OBP and team-best 6 SB for Greenville
  • Matt Dominguez – was 2-for-8 in 4 gms. w/ Astros, .243-7-52 at AAA level this yr.
  • Bob Rasmussen – short LHP; 2nd round pick by Marlins in 2010; at AA Corpus Christi
  • Francisco Cordero – current closer for Astros, was 3-5, 2 svs, 5.77 ERA
  • Ben Francisco – platoon RF for Astros w/ Brian Bogusevic
  • Joe Musgrove – 19-year old RHP, big kid; TOR’s 1st pick in 2011 compensation rnd of draft
  • Asher Wojciechowski – 23-year old RHP; TOR’s 1st pick in 2010 compensation rnd of draft
  • David Rollins – 22-year old LHP, 10-1 career minor lg. record w/ 2.46 ERA. 104 SO in 113.1 IP
  • Carlos Perez – 21-year old catching prospect, high-ceiling @ premium position
  • Player to be Named – I have no idea, but I heard it might be Babe Ruth
  • Matt Heidenreich – tall, 21-year old RHP; former 4th rounder, 25-17 w/ 3.87 ERA in 3+ yrs.
  • Blair Walters – 22-year old RHP, in two yrs. in minor leagues: 13-6, 3.99 ERA in 32 gms.
  • Player to be Named – not sure, but I heard it’s definitely NOT Old Hoss Radbourn

In all seriousness, it’s always tough to know what a team is getting with a “player to be named later.”  Sometimes it’s an important part of the trade, sometimes it’s not a significant part of the transaction.  Given what we’ve seen from Luhnow so far, I suspect that at least one of those PTBNL will be a prospect-level guy. 

Regardless, we’ve seen the Astros take eight players from the big league roster and turn them into 16 new bodies.  That’s huge.  I’m not much for talking about contracts and salaries and arbitration.  Those things don’t interest me.  I want to know who’s going to play; how good will these guys be?

That said, those eight former Astros are being paid around $40 million this year with at least some future obligations, specific or implied.  Shedding whatever payroll they did, the Astros created ongoing payroll flexibility.  Again, that’s going be pretty important.

More to the point, the players the Astros traded away ranged from 27 to 36 years old.  The average age of the incoming 14 players is 24.2 years old (which included Francisco Cordero at 37 and does not included the two PTBNL).

It’s not easy to see guys go.  We all know that.  It’s kind of like eating vegetables; not fun, but necessary for our health.

The fact is, you’re witnessing one of the most dramatic turnaround efforts in decades.  The Astros are getting younger, deeper and more talented while, at the same time, getting payroll back in line with revenues.  Next step is to develop the talent.

Then the team can spend some money to build around the home-grown nucleus. 

As Luhnow said on his pre-game show today, “There is a plan in place.  We want to get to a point where we can compete year in and year out.”  It takes time.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions.  I don’t have every answer, but I’ll try to explain whatever I can.  Feel free to ask via twitter or through comments to the blog.

Fire away!

Pequeno Gigante

Two quick things: first, I apologize that I haven’t posted more often.  It’s my goal to take this thing a little less seriously, and toss more ideas up here more often in the second-half of the season.  Sorry for the recent cone of silence.

Secondly, just a reminder to follow me on twitter  – @daveraymond4

Now, to the Astros current pride and joy.  Jose Altuve.

Just 18 months ago, Jose Altuve was a 20-year old unknown to the Astros coaching staff.  Yesterday, he flew to Kansas City to play in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

Altuve’s first big league experience? He was called up from minor league camp during Spring Training to be chased around during the Astros’ run-down drills in 2011.

Ah, the glamor.  “Keep running, kid!”

That same spring, Altuve joined the big-league club as a roster-filler for a couple long-distance Grapefruit League split-squad games.  “We fell in love with him,” said manager Brad Mills.

Altuve — whom fans have dubbed anything from “Pocket Jesus” to “El Chaparrito” to my favorite, “Pequeno Gigante” — earned his spot as a National League All-Star in, perhaps, the best way possible.

He was voted in by his peers.

No, Altuve didn’t win the popularity contest (read: Fan Vote).  Shoot, even that process has devolved from a Q-rating or name-recognition exercise to a modern day ballot stuffing contest in the form of a programing/algorithm challenge for the computer crowd.

I realize that I’m comparing NL to AL, but did Pablo Sandoval (5.7M) really get more than four-times the votes of Toronto’s Brett Lawrie (1.2M)? Come on.

Fortunately, the players get a say in this thing.  And they voted for Altuve.  I can’t think of better validation of what you do than the admiration of your peers.

Not that it comes as a huge surprise.  Player after player, and team after team have commented on how impressive the little fella is.  Michael Young nearly emerges as the star of this Astros “Mic’d Up” video for his comments about Altuve.

Anyway, good for our pequeno gigante.  Here’s hoping he steals the show on Tuesday.



Be sure to bring a fresh head of lettuce to give to Bill Brown.  He can explain the rest.

Brownie, in his 26th year as the television “Voice of the Astros” is spending the All-Star Break signing his new book and hanging out with fans.

If you haven’t already purchased (and read!) his latest work, “My Baseball Journey, A Sportscaster’s Story,” consider this a friendly nudge.  You’ll love the book.  You’ll also be supporting a terrific cause.

Bill Brown is appearing publicly for the next couple of days to sign his book and spend a little time with you.  Every single penny is going to charity.  The details:

  • TuesdayDowntown Club, 340 West Dallas St., Houston, TX @ 5:30pm (free)
  • Wednesday – Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX @ 7:00pm (free)

You’ll get to know much of what makes Brownie the remarkable man he is today.  Hear his memories of being with the Astros during 9/11.  Meet Seargent Cluff; from Bill’s days serving our country in Vietnam.  Relive some pretty good exchanges with Jim Deshaies from actual broadcast transcripts.

It’s a fun read.

Heck, Brownie even takes you behind closed doors to recount some interesting broadcast meetings with his bosses.  Did you know he broadcast for the Cincinnati Reds during the Big Red Machine era?

The book is for fans, aspiring broadcasters and those simply interested in learning more about baseball, America and the reward of following a dream.

Most importantly, though, you’ll get to know the real Bill Brown — a genuinely caring and compassionate man.

When Brett Dolan and I were hired by the Astros prior to the 2006 season, Brownie did something I’ve never heard of another broadcaster doing.  He reached out to offer as much help as we wanted.  He handed over 20 years worth of his own diligent work: notes, stats and nuggets one could only get by covering a team every day for two decades.  It was a combination of fastidious record keeping and research.

I’m sure that doesn’t resonate with most people the way it should.  In a cut-throat industry of individuals looking for anything to distinguish themselves from the crowd, Bill Brown surrendered everything he had worked on — to a couple of new guys.

Pretty phenomenal.

Years later I’ve come to understand that Bill Brown never tallied his accomplishments or hoarded his notes, stories and stats to set himself apart from everyone else.

He’s raised himself above all those things — given them all away, in fact — to distinguish himself in a much more meaningful way.  No broadcaster in the world can give as much of himself as Brownie has to his fans, his colleagues and the athletes he has covered.  That’s his legacy.

And now he’s poured it all into a book.  Not to glorify himself, and not for money.  He just wants to help kids like Zach Hamm.

Zach is 12-year old boy with ectodermal dysplasia who lives down the street from the Browns.  It’s a complicated and lousy genetic disorder.

Craig Biggio befriended Zach and made him an official member of the St. Thomas baseball team a few years ago.  In doing so, he taught Zach how a little visibility can be used for progress.  Zach has since raised big money for medical research on ectodermal dysplasia.

As it happens, these three lives have merged into an inspiring triumvirate you can both read about and support.  I can’t think of a better way to pass the 2012 All-Star Break.

For more on Brownie’s book, check out the website:

To learn more about ectodermal dysplasia, you can start by checking out the website for the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias:

Have fun, be safe and talk a little baseball with Bill Brown this week.  You’ll be happy you did.

Oh, and don’t forget the lettuce!



I’m disappointed that Jed Lowrie didn’t make the NL All-Star team.  I certainly understand that this kind of thing happens.  And, yes, life isn’t fair.

Jed deserved to make the team, though.

When they announced the final rosters last week, Lowrie owned the highest on-base percentage among everyday shortstops in the NL.  He also had the highest slugging percentage.

Combining those numbers for his OPS (on-base plus slugging), Jed was more than 100 points higher than the next closest at his position.  OPS has, in recent years, become the simplest metric by which we can measure the offensive value of a player.

Lowrie blew away his competition in the first half of the season.

He’s not the only snub, of course.  I bet we could make a pretty good team out of guys who were not originally named All-Stars this year.  I took a quick stab at it myself.  Any other suggestions?

  • P – J. Cueto
  • P – J. Peavy
  • P – R. Vogelsong
  • P – M. Bumgarner
  • OF – M. Bourn
  • OF – A. Gordon
  • OF – A. Jackson
  • 1B – A. Pujols
  • 2B – B. Zobrist
  • 3B – M. Moustakas
  • SS – J. Lowrie
  • C – M. Montero

That took five minutes.  So I guess there are plenty of guys who get snubbed.

Somehow, I don’t think that helps any of them accept being left out.